Informal Education

It is long since I posted anything the reason being the onset of winter and the tendency to curl up in bed with a book whenever possible. I am reading an interesting book by Dr. Bruce Lipton The Biology of Belief and it has given me an insight into the role played by the mind in shaping one s health. No, I am not done with the book yet but being a biology teacher myself I realized that there was lot more to biology than what is being taught in its conventional form. It is like learning my subject all over again. While dealing with Biology in its unconventional form I was inspired to think of the unorthodox modes of teaching and was forced to admit that those who broke away from the routine of class room teaching and practiced self learning in various forms have actually benefitted from it. A look around me does identify a few people known to me who were criticized when they broke away from the tried and tested path but have indeed proved their critics wrong. Ramani was one such person.

Ramani was in class 9 when he ran away from school and returned after 24 hours saying that he was drugged and abducted by a stranger who offered him sweets in the local train while returning home. He managed to escape when he gained consciousness. Apparently his abductor had left him unattended and had gone off to have a cup of tea. The boy gave him a slip and boarded a train to Chennai to return home. His version was authenticated by the station master of Katpadi junction whom he had approached for help. The boy was brilliant but was never regular in class. He would not finish his assignments on time and ask his teachers pesky questions much to their irritation. He managed to finish school and joined a prestigious college in Chennai. He dropped out within a year saying that he found classes boring and he did not expect to benefit greatly by the outdated syllabus that was being followed. He wanted to be left alone till he decided on what was best for him. His parents almost fell at his feet asking him to first finish his course and ponder on what he wished to do with his life later. The boy was adamant and their pleas fell on deaf ears. Six months later he purchased books on computer technology and for the next 3 years did a lot of self study. Without a degree to support him, the boy started his career as a software consultant working for up and coming companies. He charged a pittance for his services if at all. Very soon word spread around and today he works from home earning not less than a lakh per month. He is invited to Latin America, Korea and Portugal to train those with engineering degrees and he has the final say on the structure and duration of the course. His wife is an MCA graduate but she gladly admits that he is more knowledgeable than her. He now admits that the story of his abduction in class 9 was not true. It was an experiment he tried out to escape the monotony of his school routine and simply an extension of his imagination.

Lalita was always drawn towards nature and believed that one could learn more from nature that all the conventional text books put together. She left home with her children – two of them minors and lived in an aashram in the Western Ghats. She encouraged them to learn from their surroundings and at their own pace. She bought a lot of books for them and allowed them to apply the knowledge gained from books to their daily lives. Her children are now settled in life. To call them brilliant would be an understatement. With no formal education they are experts in their respective fields. When I think of them I wonder if we are doing the right thing by pressurizing our children to learn by rote or imposing a curriculum that has no relevance or application to their career or day to day life. Yet how many of us are willing to take a chance? I may appreciate such people from a distance and refrain from criticizing them but would I have the confidence to try it out on my own children/students? I am afraid not. The famous saying better safe than sorry is perhaps more applicable to most of us.

Having said this it is only fair to add that informal education only benefits children that are receptive to it. I know of a father who was of the opinion that children ought not to be coerced into following any routine. He had a successful career and according to him, since his own father never imposed anything on him and he would do the same and let his children decide for themselves about what they would do with their lives. Unfortunately his son needed the guiding influence of a father and was unable to cope with the strain posed in the prevailing competitive environment. He was an average student with a flair for painting and music. With a little encouragement and a lot of appreciation the boy could have done well enough in class but the father being disappointed with him chose to blame his wife s upbringing as well as her genes for his dismal record. His only argument was that since his own father had allowed him to study at his own pace and he turned out to be successful there could be nothing wrong with his method. He never even suspected that the method that worked for him may not be appropriate for his son. Today the son lacks confidence and longs for a kind word from his father more than anything else.

I haven t yet finished the book but the title The Biology of Belief is impressive. Belief in one s potential enables one to make an appropriate choice from the available environment. If a child is able to believe in his own capabilities he can make it big even if he is a school drop out because he imbibes life s lessons by practical methods. If on the other hand he lacks confidence it becomes the duty of his parents and teachers to give the necessary moral boosting to acquire it. Whether the required training is formal or informal hardly matters. If the child s potential has to be awakened, a chain of mutual trust, linking him to his environment on the one hand and his parent on the other, has to be established. And once this chain is firmly in place it can work wonders to the internal system of an individual


About the Author

Hip Grandma

The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its shortcomings, she would rather not shift anywhere! She began her career at a local women’s college for two reasons: read more...

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